Use Journals to Introduce Culture and Accelerate Onboarding

12-14-2016 | Dave King | Culture

Maintaining our healthy company culture is a deeply held commitment for us at XPLANE, and we see onboarding as a critical part of that effort.  Onboarding is more than ensuring people have the physical tools they need to do their work.  They also need the social and emotional tools to feel empowered, supported and excited for their new chapter.

Read More

Leading by Teaching and Learning

12-14-2016 | Roel Uleners | Culture

Teaching and learning are both an integral part of our culture and vision at XPLANE. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as a design consultancy, we're automatically comprised of people with a natural curiosity wanting to know the big picture as well as the details, and always looking for the human story in things. As such, XPLANErs seem born with an insatiable hunger for learning, no matter if it is a brand-new methodology or the latest customer insights.

Read More

I Don't Want to Change You: A Love Letter and a Card Deck

12-14-2016 | Stephanie Gioia | Culture
My Valentine’s gift: a love letter to employees around the world.
Read More

Why Visual Thinking Trumps Documents and Spreadsheets

“We need this.”

“This” is visual thinking and the “we” are professors from the top MBA programs around the world at the annual meeting for the Production and Operations Management Society earlier this month.

Read More

Three Kick-Ass Visual Icebreakers

Our  discovery sessions, in fact, our entire business, is built on visual thinking.  Still, we know that in any session, some people will exchange nervous glances as soon as they see the Post-it Notes and Sharpies and we mention that everyone will draw.  
Read More

If There Were No PowerPoint… A Plea For Conversation and Connecting to Your Audience

Slide decks can be amazing. When used right PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, and all the other presentation tools can inspire, persuade, educate, mobilize and motivate. At XPLANE we love creating unique and compelling presentations to reach all kinds of audiences.

Read More

Visual Thinking Sketch Notes

12-12-2016 | Roel Uleners | Visual Thinking

Download the eBook  here.
Read More

The Secret to a Successful Business: Trust

12-12-2016 | Katie Augsburger | Culture

When XPLANE launched our unlimited vacation policy more than a year ago, nearly everyone outside of the company was skeptical.
The responses were typical. “We couldn’t do that here. If I gave my team unlimited vacation, I would never see them again.” “It works for XPLANE because you can trust your team not to abuse it, but that just wouldn’t work at my company. People here couldn't handle it.”
What makes XPLANE so special? Why can we trust our staff with a completely flexible work environment and unlimited paid time off (PTO) when other companies feel compelled to enforce a stricter “butts-in-chairs” policy?
This may sound too simple, but the difference is we can trust our employees because we do trust our employees. XPLANE believes in what I like to call a “trust-first mentality.”
Unlimited PTO is phased into our employee benefits after the first year, but our completely flexible work environment starts from day one. If you are part of the team, we trust that you are an all-star, and you will always be treated as such.
Our “trust-first” way of thinking is backed by data.
It’s proven that happiness and performance increase when trust is extended. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that a 10% increase in trust in an organization had the same impact on employee satisfaction as a 36% increase in pay.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review around the release of his book Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal discussed the importance of extending and displaying trust from day one He told HBR, “I try to exhibit trust in small ways. In a briefing, if somebody asks me for a decision, I might turn to a subordinate and ask them to handle it. I don’t ask for specifics, and I’m very overt—almost theatrical—about it. Everybody else sees it. The message is ‘I trust you guys to handle this stuff,’ and that can grow virally throughout an organization.”
You can’t just say you trust them. You have to prove it.
Importantly, trust is hollow if it’s not extended fully. Many companies say they believe in and value trust, but then they require complicated approvals for a vacation day, or they install video cameras or Internet monitoring. When employers do that, they are verbally touting trust, but their actions say, “I can only trust you if I can see and approve of what you are doing.”
It’s hard to imagine that kind of monitoring outside of work. “Of course I trust my best friend, I just have to watch where she goes all the time and check her phone records to prove I can trust her.” People who acted like that might find themselves friendless pretty quickly.
Employment relationships are the same: if organizations want engaged and happy employees, leaders must find ways to not only extend trust but also expand autonomy. For XPLANE, having a completely flexible work environment is a way to do that. XPLANE employees embrace a culture where we meet client deadlines while delighting and wowing our customers. With the flexible work environment, we convey to our employees, “I trust you to both meet deadlines and produce world-class quality work. Everything else is up to you.”
If employees are confident that we trust them to take whatever time they need to recharge as long as the work gets done on time, the work gets done on time. If they know that leadership believes the quality remains high whether you finish a project from the studio or from your sofa, the quality never suffers.  
In fact, more often than not, our well-rested employees produce even higher quality projects than expected because the more trust that is given, the better everyone performs.  
We were thrilled when Fortune Magazine recognized XPLANE as #3 in the U.S. for flexibility. It is recognition that we are on the right path in providing trust in our employees. Our goal is not to be the anomaly; instead, we’d like to start a conversation that might lead to a movement to change the future of work.   
We’ll start the conversation by encouraging leaders to ask themselves, what would my company look like if we allowed complete flexibility? What behaviors would I have to change or develop to make this happen? How would I feel to work at a place that trusted me even when I wasn’t anywhere in sight?

We invite you to follow our series as we explore workplace flexibility and trust and how we make it work for XPLANE. Until then, we encourage company leaders to look at their current policies and philosophies regarding flexibility and how that may be reinforcing or eroding trust in their organizations.
Read More

Design Thinking vs. Visual Thinking

At XPLANE we pride ourselves on bringing clarity to complexity. We usually do this for clients, but sometimes the need strikes closer to home. This happened recently at a social event when I heard the terms “design thinking” and “visual thinking” used interchangeably (not for the first time—and definitely not for the last). Now, most people who work in business strategy, innovation, or problem-solving can tell you that design thinking and visual thinking are not the same, but not everyone can easily articulate the difference. So in the interest of clarity and some serious cred at your next post-work cocktail hour, here’s a quick explanation of the difference between the two.

Simply put, design thinking is a method for problem solving.

IDEO popularized the method in the early 1990s by applying it to product design. Since that time, a variety of design thinking approaches have been applied to an ever-increasing range of challenges. Think of it as a constellation of iterative steps and best practices rather than a specific process. Most of these approaches share the same basic activities:

Read More

It’s Your Culture, Not Your Compensation Program That’s Broken

11-23-2016 | Katie Augsburger | Culture

I recently read Todd Zenger’s article in Harvard Business Review, “The Case Against Pay Transparency.”  Mr. Zenger makes great point after great point about how a transparent pay program can destroy a culture. He argues that opening up pay conversations and information with employees can lead to a culture of politicking, division, and disengagement.

Read More